MARTA rolls out expansion plan that would create new options in several areas

MARTA would spend more than half a billion dollars to build light rail along the Atlanta Beltline under a final transit expansion plan unveiled Thursday.

ATLANTA — MARTA has rolled out a sweeping expansion plan that extends light rail and bus lines across the city.

From the Emory campus to Campbellton Road , it would create new transportation options for several Atlanta neighborhoods. The plan could take decades to complete.

If it moves forward, it would be by far the largest expansion in MARTA's history.

"It's about time. We need it. We really do. Atlanta is getting bigger, so we need the expansion," MARTA rider Melody Toles told Channel 2 Action News.

Toles' reaction represent many more when we showed MARTA riders the multi-billion dollar, decades-long, expansion plan the agency dropped Thursday morning.

"I think it's great," MARTA rider Sharon Thornhill said.

The plan, which touches every corner of the city, calls for a combination of new light rail lines, extending the Atlanta street car, two different kinds of bus rapid transit, expanding other bus routes, plus building new transit stations.

"It's almost comparable to the original MARTA plan where the system was created," Georgia State University urban researcher Chris Wyczalkowski said.


Some of the highlights include more than a half billion dollars to build a light rail along the Atlanta Beltline, a new light rail line along Campbelton Road in southwest Atlanta, and up the Clifton Road Corridor to Emory University.

"I think the overall impression is that they've done a good job spreading the money around," Wyczalkowski said.

MARTA has been working on the plan ever since Atlanta voters approved a half-penny sales tax in 2016 for transportation projects. The tax will generate two and a half billion dollars over 40 years.

"It sounds like a lot, but over 40 years, two-and-a-half billion dollars, when you have an area as large as Atlanta to cover, it doesn't go as far as you would think," Wyczalkowski said.

MARTA is counting on private dollars and federal funding to get a lot of this done.

“Well, the city desperately needs more transit. We’re being choked not just by car traffic, but literally choked by the pollution that cars are producing.” Wyczalkowski said.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has a week to review the MARTA plan.

Bottoms told Channel 2 Action News the plan enhances the transportation system in an "exceptional way."

MARTA's board is expected to vote on the plan next week.